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Sisters soaring high! Amanda and Hana Moll taking girls pole vaulting to a new level

Last weekend at the Texas Relays, Amanda set the new outdoors girls pole vault mark at 14-91/2. Hana is No. 3 all-time at 14-8.

OLYMPIA - As her competitive adrenaline was dwindling down, Hana Moll's twin-sister sense was ticking up.

A hush had come over the packed Mike A. Myers Stadium grandstands at the prestigious Texas Relays on Friday afternoon as Amanda Moll - Hana's sister and Capital (Wash.) High School track and field teammate - had one final chance to set a national high school outdoor girls pole vault record.

Hana had just posted a no-height finish at the meet. But butterflies were filling up her stomach watching her sister.

She knew.

"(Amanda) had this coming for so long," Hana said.

And Amanda did it, soaring over the bar at a height of 14 feet, 91/2 inches to set the national record, eclipsing California teenager Paige Sommers' mark of 14-9, set last May. Sommers is now competing at Duke University.

"I was on the biggest pole I have ever been on, so I knew I had to go out there and attack it. I couldn't prance down the runaway," Amanda said.

"I was really hot. My legs were tired. I was focused. I wanted to clear that bar. I centered myself before I stepped on the runway and said, 'OK, I am going to do this.'"

There isn't anything these two sisters, now high school juniors, seem fazed by these days in this event.

According to World Athletics' women's pole vault rankings, both sisters are in the top 70 in the world, regardless of age.

In their Under-18 age group, the sisters sit atop the rankings - Amanda at No. 1 (14-91/2), and Hana at No. 2 (14-8 at National Pole Vault Summit in January).

"They have all the features, but they also have a phenomenal mindset and balance of loving it and being focused on it," said Tim Reilly, the founder of Seattle-based Northwest Pole Vault Club. "They have everything in perspective."

Not surprisingly, both teenagers come from a gymnastics background. But in seventh grade, they wanted to venture into track and field.

That is when they were introduced to Mike Strong, the former longtime Yelm High School coach who was on the staff at Capital. He has a vast multi-event training background, which is something that was attractive to the Moll family.

It became clear the two girls had a special talent for the pole vault, a highly-technical event.

"We've always been very analytical people," Hana said. "Taking that and combining it with sports - it is helpful with pole vault because it is so technical."

What the twins have is a well-rounded team in their corner:

*Reilly, who has nearly three decades of high school coaching behind him, has quickly established himself as one of the top pole-vaulting gurus in the nation. He now has a stable of 70 girls and boys training at his facility.

Twice a week during the WIAA season, the Moll sisters work on the technical aspect of pole vaulting with Reilly - and maintains that schedule in the offseason.

*Strong, a Washington state high school track and field coaches association hall of famer, spent 25 years at Yelm before joining the Cougars' program.

He has set up the twins' speed-, strength- and balance-enhancing workout program, utilizing a lot of plyometrics.

*Then, of course, there are the twins' parents, Eric and Paula Moll. Dad is big on their psychological development while mom is the chief scheduling organizer.

"It's always flowed so well together," Amanda said. "The coaches work together so well. They are very good at what they do. And my parents are good at the planning ... so we can just focus on what we need to do."

Pole vaulting never becomes the sole focus, however.

The sisters make sure participate in other events on the Capital track team at dual meets - such as hurdles, long jump and short-distance relays.

They also make plenty of time for their favorite family activities, such as rock-climbing and mountain biking. Both like to read and cook. Amanda has an art journal for painting and drawing.

"If you are just focused on one thing, you are going to get burned out," Amanda said.

Reilly thinks both sisters will someday be U.S. Olympic Women's Track and Field teammates.

"It's definitely reassuring to know he knows we can do it," Amanda said. "It's not like that seems crazy to me, either."